With 70 faculty affiliates across 21 departments, CDE has played, and continues to play, a pioneering role in extending population science. CDE’s overarching objective is to support and facilitate innovative and influential research and rigorous training in population science. Achieving this objective requires continuous renewal and innovation based on a collective vision of the most exciting and promising developments in the field and careful assessment of how the Center can best leverage its resources and expertise to realize the potential of those developments.

CDE’s research is focused in five primary research areas: 1) Fertility, Families and Households; 2) Demography of Inequality; 3) Health and the Life Course; 4) Biodemography; and 5) Spatial and Environmental Demography. Much of the work being done by CDE affiliates spans two or more research areas, a strength that fosters collaborative interdisciplinary research. Within the Center, these efforts are promoted by the weekly research seminar (DemSem), the weekly Demography Training Seminar, and by regular meetings of thematic working groups. The five working groups, each led by two Research Area Directors, bring together Center affiliates from across disciplines to develop new collaborative research efforts and proposals for external funding around cross-cutting and innovative questions in population science.

Fertility, Families, and Households

Research Area Directors: Christine Schwartz and Marcy Carlson

CDE has long been known for its pioneering work in family demography. This reputation continues as a new generation of CDE scholars addresses new and more diverse questions, with particular emphasis on family complexity, socioeconomic differences in family behavior, and the implications of those differences for broader social and economic inequality. Documentation of trends and socioeconomic differences in fertility, union formation, union dissolution, and the composition of households is an important component of basic demographic science. This is particularly so in the context of growing social and economic inequality, increasing family complexity arising from the decoupling of marriage and childbearing, and changing gender dynamics accompanying relative improvements in women’s educational and occupational status vis-à-vis men.

Health and the Life Course

Research Area Directors: John Mullahy and Michal Engelman

Much of CDE’s work focuses on inequalities in health behaviors and outcomes over the life course, understanding the ways in which early-life exposures and experiences contribute to variation in subsequent health outcomes, and the reproduction of health (dis)advantage across generations. Recent research at CDE has focused on health has also considered the spatial patterning of health and key environmental influences and thus overlaps with Spatial and Environmental Demography.

Demography of Inequality

Research Area Directors: Eric Grodsky and Jessica Pac

The U.S. is characterized by high levels of poverty and social and economic inequality, especially when compared to other industrialized countries, with major implications for family behavior, health, child well-being, the intergenerational transmission of (dis)advantage, and racial/ethnic inequality. The levels and patterns of inequality in a particular society indicate the resources available to individuals and have major implications for social organization and cohesion, political processes, and the evolution of a nation’s economy. Inequality shapes population transformations at all levels of society, from the local, state, and national contexts. At each level of analysis, CDE affiliates are engaged in important research with both applied and fundamental scientific implications for the understanding of population transformations


Area Research Directors: Jason Fletcher and Corinne Engelman

The integration of biomarker data with social scientific data is one of the most important directions in population science. CDE’s contributions to the development of biodemography directly addresses federal research priorities on gene-environment interactions. Integrating information about human biology, physiology, and genetics with observational measures more traditionally used in demographic research (from surveys or census data) can help elucidate health and disease processes that underlie patterns of human morbidity and mortality, identify risk factors for susceptibility to particular exposures and environments, and provide additional tools for identifying causal effects.

Spatial and Environmental Demography

Area Research Directors: Katherine Curtis and Malia Jones

Environmental context, events, and change are of increasing concern to human populations and represent a growing, yet still poorly understood, source of inequality in health and well-being over the life course. Recent research shows that the reality of place—reflecting the natural and built environments, social context, and specific location within a spatial structure—affects a host of outcomes for individuals, including health, socioeconomic attainment and longevity. Place impacts broader demographic processes (i.e., fertility, migration, and mortality), which in turn, influence population size and composition